Nate Ryan

Jenson Button makes NASCAR debut at COTA in first of three Cup races with RWR’s No. 15


Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One champion, will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut March 26 at Circuit of the Americas in his first of three races in the 2023 season.

In a collaboration between Rick Ware Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing (which is providing marketing and promotional support, Button will drive the No. 15 Ford Mustang with sponsorship from Mobil 1. Button also will race RWR’s No. 15 (a chartered car) July 2 in the Chicago Street Race and Aug. 13 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Button already has been getting laps in a Next Gen car this year, testing the Chevrolet Camaro that he will share with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller in the Garage 56 entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Button tested the Garage 56 car earlier this week at COTA.

NEW APPRECIATION FOR NASCAR: Button impressed by how Cup teams stack up against F1’s best

In an F1 career that started in 2000, the 15-time winner drove for Williams, Renault, Honda and McLaren during 17 full-time seasons.

In addition to his work as a Sky Sports F1 commentator, Button has remained active in racing. He won the 2018 championship in the Japanese Super GT Series’ GT500 class.

Button also has been active in sports cars, making five starts in the World Endurance Championship (including the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans), and off-road endurance racing (the Mint 400 and Baja 1000 in 2019). Mobil 1 has been a sponsor for 20 years since his days in F1.

“I won the world championship with Mobil 1, and 14 of my 15 wins in Formula One were with Mobil 1, as well as winning the Super GT championship with them,” Button said in a release. “We’ve had a really close relationship over the years and I can’t think of a better partner.

“Mobil 1 has been a big part of making these NASCAR races happen for me, so I’m very thankful to them for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to working alongside the brand to get the best out of every race weekend.”

“We are thrilled to celebrate Jenson Button as he makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series and support him on his journey to making one of his racing dreams a reality,” Rob Shearer, Mobil 1 director of global lubricants marketing services, said in a release. “We’re driven by the love of driving and committed to helping more people get behind the wheel – wherever they may be. Through our partnership, we hope to continue to inspire and serve drivers everywhere – encouraging them to get more out of their drive and reconnect with the adventure of the open road.”

Button has 306 career starts in F1, wrapping his career in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix as a substitute for Fernando Alonso (who was racing in the Indy 500).

“The reason I was able to stay in Formula One for so long was because I always felt I was learning,” he said. “There was always something new in terms of technologies, or I could still improve my driving or engineering skills within Formula One. When I got to my 17th year in F1, I felt like I lost that hunger a little bit because it wasn’t new anymore. There wasn’t something new to learn.

“Stepping away from F1 gave me the opportunity to try different series that excited me. I raced Super GT in Japan. I raced at Le Mans. I raced off-road because it was another skill to learn. You put yourself in a slightly vulnerable position because it’s not your complete skill set, and there’s still more to learn to be as good as the best. I love that challenge of driving new things. It’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and I found that out with off-road trucks.”

Button already has gotten familiar with the stock-car industry through his new connections with Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR (which are jointly fielding the Le Mans entry).

Button, who lives in Los Angeles, attended The Clash at the Coliseum last month with his family. During a Jan. 28 news conference at Daytona International Speedway to unveil the Garage 56 driver lineup, he spoke at length about what fascinated him in a Cup car.

“Obviously, racing a Cup car is very different than what I’m used to,” he said in the release to announce his three-race ride with RWR. “It’s a lot heavier with a lot less power and basically no downforce. It’s got a sequential gearbox where you need to blip the throttle, so there’s lots of stuff to learn in a very short space of time.

“But I just get excited about that new challenge, and when I throw myself into something, I am 100 percent in. I’m not just doing it for fun in some one-off. I want to be competitive, and I know that to be competitive, it’s going to take a bit of time. That’s why doing these three races works very well this season.”

Button said it took about four laps in Garage 56 testing to get the hang of the slightly modified version of the Next Gen Camaro that he will be racing June 10-11 at Circuit de la Sarthe.

“The first time I jumped into the Garage 56 car, it was like, ‘What have I done? This is so different,’ ” Button said. “Then it was like, ‘Hang on, it’s still a race car. It’s got four tires that touch the road. It’s a mechanical racecar, which is even better for learning.’ I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.”

“A Cup car has a lot less downforce and is a lot heavier, but the Garage 56 car has given me an idea of what it will be like along with a direction, which is really useful,” he said. “I know in my first race I’m not expected to be qualifying right at the front, and I’m not expected to be fighting for a victory. I have a lot of respect for the drivers racing in the Cup Series. There’s so much talent there, whether it’s on ovals or road courses.

“Ten years ago, people used to say NASCAR guys can’t drive around a circuit, but I think they’ve proven that they can. Every time an ex-F1 driver gets in a stock car these days, they struggle initially. It takes a while for them to get up to speed, so I don’t expect to be right at the front, straight away. That’s why, for me, doing more than one race is really key so I can get the best out of myself and the best out of the car.”

Jenson Button, who has 15 victories and the 2009 championship in Formula One, will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut at COTA in a Ford Mustang. He also will be driving a Chevrolet Camaro at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (True Speed Communication).

Button will be racing at COTA with fellow F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified 27th and finished 37th in his Cup debut last Aug. 21 at Watkins Glen International with Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 Chevrolet.

“The most important thing for me is to enjoy it,” Button said of his debut at COTA (where he made five F1 starts). “I want to feel comfortable in the car knowing that I can get as much out of the car in any situation as other people out on track. The result is the result and we’ll see what happens, but I want to get the confidence to brake as late as I’d like, to carry the speed through the high-speed corners, and to be able to race close – wheel-to-wheel with the pack.”

The COTA race also will feature two other notable drivers from other series with IndyCar’s Conor Daly (who made his Cup debut in the Daytona 500) and IMSA’s Jordan Taylor (in place of the injured Chase Elliott).

Ryan: Last lap at Fontana raises questions of NASCAR’s past, present and future in SoCal


As NASCAR sets to raze the Garage Mahal built by Roger Penske on a toxic waste dump in Fontana, California, let’s recognize that Paul Oberjuerge saw this coming a quarter-century ago.

When the finishing touches were put on California Speedway, the plaudits overflowed for Penske’s $125 million palace of speed. NASCAR’s premier series had been absent from Southern California for nearly a decade. After tracks failed in nearby Ontario and Riverside, Fontana would be the unlikeliest site for the most proper of returns.

At the first open test on May 5, 1997, Cup teams were greeted by an opulent track built to 21st-century standards.

Cavernous garage bays and spaciously designed pit stalls. Gorgeous, plush suites with panoramic views of the track and San Gabriel Mountains. Top-shelf facilities for the media and even a first-class gym for the drivers.

Everywhere were hallmarks of the “Penske perfect” details – track president Greg Penske had day-to-day oversight of his father’s vision rising from the ruins of the dilapidated Kaiser Steel Mill (its World War II-era origins once marked by an iconic water tower) – and everyone was ready to proclaim NASCAR’s newfound permanence in Southern California.

Everyone except Oberjuerge, the sports editor of The San Bernardino County Sun whose sharp-edged and incisive newspaper columns were daily must-reads in the Inland Empire for nearly three decades.

In a May 7, 1997 piece titled: “Speedway: Bigger Isn’t Always Better,” Oberjuerge marveled at the mammoth infield that could fit virtually every major stadium in Southern California (“The stands are taller, the distances longer, the logistics Pharaonic”).

He saluted the endless ambition of Roger Penske (“A century ago, men of his ilk built the Panama Canal and laid the Transatlantic cable. Fifty years ago, they organized D-Day. Who is building Hoover Dam these days? Penske clearly hasn’t heard about the Era of Limits.”)

And, amidst the enormity and audacity, he asked whether there also was a hint of arrogance.

Ontario Motor Speedway, a palatial carbon copy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, opened less than 5 miles away in 1970.

After drowning in debt, Ontario was closed and bulldozed in 1980.

“Could all that happen again? No one here seems to consider it even a remote possibility, hubris which seems a little scary,” Oberjuerge wrote. “The inaugural event is barely six weeks away. We’re guessing it will be an unqualified success. This track is gleaming, magnificent, top of the line.

“But, then, so was the Titanic.”

That closing line didn’t land well at The Captain’s sparkling new ship.

Les Richter, the late former NASCAR executive and NFL Hall of Famer who was the Penske family’s right-hand man at California Speedway, called The Sun’s cub auto racing reporter to read him the riot act.

Six weeks later, a sellout crowd of nearly 100,000 watched a superstar christen a speedway. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural California 500 and ushered in a new era of NASCAR in the Golden State.

Until now.

Oberjuerge’s words suddenly feel extraordinarily prescient almost 26 years later when pondering the murky future of Fontana’s 2-mile oval, which has been sentenced to be blown up, rebuilt and reopened as a short track at some unspecified point.

The news also has been strangely vague about the proposed layout.

There have been no “official” blueprints since The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck initially reported that it would be a half-mile track blending elements of Bristol and Martinsville. Documents submitted to San Bernardino County last year indicated the track would be 0.67 miles.

Track president Dave Allen recently said NASCAR still was “trying to figure out what makes the most sense … on and off the track.”

It all has raised serious questions about whether big-league stock-car racing is poised to recommit its sins of the past in the Southland, which endured an eight-year winter without a Cup race when Riverside International Raceway was shuttered in 1989.

NASCAR Fontana
The scene on June 22, 1997 at the inaugural California 500 in Fontana, California (Craig Jones /Allsport).

Already what once seemed unthinkable – a NASCAR Cup schedule without a race at a permanent facility in the country’s second-largest market – will happen next year as it’s been confirmed the 2024 season won’t include Fontana.

Perhaps more distressing is there has been no timetable yet for when – or even if – the repurposed short track will open.

This reinvention already seemed a misstep by NASCAR, given that Auto Club Speedway had emerged as the gold standard for unrestricted speedways over the past 13 years.

Now the short-track project looms as a financial and logistical boondoggle caught in a morass of supply chain woes in the country’s most heavily regulated state.

Penske needed nearly four years and had to move mountains to get California Speedway built on a former Superfund site. The red tape is no less daunting now in the wake of a pandemic that has choked every major construction project in existence.

S.Raceway.8.0505.GFFONTANA (5/5/97)––The new California Speedway sits on 529 acres. They say it's bi
The finishing touches in 1997 are put on California Speedway, whose infield is large enough to fit four Rose Bowls or eight Dodger Stadiums. The grandstands originally had a 71,000-seat capacity (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

Auto Club Speedway’s overhaul already had been delayed more than a year and now appears to have no definitive start or end date.

All that is known for certain is that Sunday will mark the final race on the beloved original layer of asphalt that was laid in January 1997.

“Right now, this will be our last race with the 2-mile track,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week. “Right now, it’s going to take a couple of years to build the new track. It’s something right now that we’re interested in doing. What that timeline looks like, we’re not sure.”

The articulate Phelps is known for being measured and precise with his words.

Three utterances in 20 seconds of “right now” are less than reassuring for Fontana’s outlook – even if NASCAR’s priority is to keep the track.

Coupled with NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell’s similar uncertainty in a recent interview with the Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern, these are clear warning signs that permanently closing Auto Club Speedway is on the table.

F.Penske.4.0224.GF.GThe new California Speedway in Fontana will attract big–league racing to Souther
California Speedway a few weeks before its June 22, 1997 opening. The iconic water tower, the only remaining vestige of the former Kaiser Steel Mill that once occupied the site, was removed in 2013  (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

In shortening up Auto Club Speedway’s length by 75 percent, the short-track project includes selling off part of the massive site.

Per an official track release, NASCAR has been working with Hillwood Properties on “redeveloping portions of Auto Club Speedway’s property.” Portions of the Turn 1 and 4 grandstands already have been removed.

The Sports Business Journal’s Stern reported Feb. 24 that “dozens of acres” already had been sold to an unknown buyer. According to the SBJ, San Bernardino County documents indicated the sale price at $544 million. Other documents filed to the California Environmental Quality Act website indicated that NASCAR and Hillwood were selling 433 acres of the property.

It obviously is plausible that a scarcity of materials and labor could push the short-track project well beyond 2025, never mind the inevitable cost overruns.

Some of that will be defrayed by auctioning off part of the track’s land (the SBJ story reported that sale proceeds will be reinvested in the overhaul) – but that piecemeal approach also surely opens the door to selling the entire property, too.

Consider that the current going rate for building pro sports stadiums in Southern California is in the nine figures.

SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, opened a few years ago in Inglewood at an estimated cost of $5 to 6 billion. A new NBA arena for the L.A. Clippers will open in Inglewood next year with a price tag of $1.8 billion.

At what point with Auto Club Speedway does the temptation become too great to ignore multimillion-dollar offers for the rest of the 522 acres (or 568 acres as listed by the speedway) that sit within spitting distance of several major interstates and highways?

NASCAR doesn’t need to be partnered with a commercial real estate company to understand the value of potential warehouse space in the Age of Amazon.

All of those mitigating factors – coupled with fans clamoring for more short tracks — seem to be why staying status quo with the current layout isn’t an option.

Even if the 2-mile oval were kept, it eventually would require a multimillion-dollar repave that would be followed by at least a few years of less scintillating racing.

When it opened, Fontana was among the most maligned speedways in NASCAR for many years. It was gifted and then stripped of a second annual race because its crowds dwindled so much.

But as the asphalt aged, the pockmarked surface became a favorite of drivers and fans who watched last-lap lead changes with regularity from 2011-14 on a track whose straightaways are faster than Daytona.

AUTO: FEB 27 NASCAR Cup Series - Wise Power 400
Prerace ceremonies before the NASCAR Cup Series race Feb. 27, 2022 at Auto Club Speedway (Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

“The racing got super good there,” AJ Allmendinger said. “As drivers, we all love it because it wears the tires out, you’re slipping and sliding around, it’s multiple grooves. You’re running on the apron there. It just puts on great racing. I think all of us have thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially, I really feel like the last 10 years, it just kind of flipped where we just put on such great finishes there.

“It’s one of those racetracks where you understand that something’s got to change because the pavement is so old, and eventually you either repave it and the great racing goes away, or you reconfigure it and try something new.”

Some still are pining for a third option.

“I wish they would leave it (alone),” Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney said when asked of the 2-mile oval’s demise last week. “I think you talk to any driver, and they will tell you the same thing. That place is one of the funnest, coolest racetracks that we go to. I hate to see that place go.”

California Speedway
The asphalt had yet to be done in 1996 during construction of California Speedway, which took nearly four years to complete. The paving was finished in January 1997, and Paul Tracy took the first laps in a Team Penske car from the CART Champ Car World Series (ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images).

Said Chase Briscoe: “I think it’s going to be bittersweet for all the drivers because that’s like the last true track that we have. Auto Club is just so fun from a driver’s standpoint because it’s so slick. It’s worn out. It’s rough. You just bounce around. You literally run wherever on the racetrack, especially with the Next Gen car. I thought that it was just a really well put-together racetrack for those cars.

“So I’m bummed.”

Any NASCAR fan should be, too, especially those among the roughly 25 million who live within a few hours of Fontana.

In addition to having very fickle fans, Southern California is known for skyrocketing property values. It’s notable that Fontana was birthed by Roger Penske, who long has touted the importance of having permanent facilities in major-league auto racing series.

Temporary circuits such as street races are great for bringing the action to the people, but their layouts also can be fleeting. For every Long Beach and St. Petersburg in IndyCar, there are Baltimore, Houston, Vancouver, Cleveland, Miami – an endless list of flameouts.

F.Penske.2.0224.GF.GGreg Penske, son of race car driver Roger Penske, is president of the new Califo
Greg Penske was the first president of California Speedway. He also oversaw operations at nearby Longo Toyota in El Monte, the world’s largest car dealership (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

If NASCAR chooses to abandon Fontana, it possibly could keep a tenuous footprint with points races in Southern California via stadiums (though issues cropped up in The Clash at the Coliseum) or street races.

But it then would be difficult to see a route back with a permanent new oval.

Building another California Speedway might cost 10 times now what it did in the mid-1990s.

Penske erected Fontana through the force of sheer will. He’s a billionaire who loves motorsports (and who also owns the world’s biggest Toyota dealership nearby). The chances of such felicitous circumstances arising again are slim.

Still, it surely wouldn’t be possible for NASCAR to be left without a permanent home in Southern California (and for the second time in 35 years)?

No one ever would have seen that coming.

Except someone already did.

What drivers said about the 65th Daytona 500


What NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after Sunday’s 65th running of the Daytona 500, which opened the 2023 season Sunday at Daytona International Speedway and was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished first: “They left me a note in the car that said they believe in me and to go get the job done tonight. I made a few mistakes. We were able to battle back. This team worked really, really hard in the offseason, great pit stops, Hendrick engines. Man, this is unbelievable. This was the site of my last win back in 2017. We’ve worked really hard. We had a couple shots last year to get a win and fell short. It was a tough season, but man, we got it done. Daytona 500.

“When (Kyle Busch) went to the bottom there, I was able to push (Joey Logano) and (Kyle Larson). We had a huge run. I was hoping we were going to get to the white there, and we didn’t, so I knew I was going to take the top. I was hoping (Logano) was going to follow, and he did. He was able to push us out. I went to the bottom,(Busch) and (Logano) got a huge run. (Larson) split me in the middle, but another fellow dirt racer with (Christopher) Bell gave me a good shot down the little short chute into 1, and we were out front when the caution came out. We were out of fuel so the fuel light was going crazy. I hope y’all had fun. That was a heck of a race.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished second: “Second is the worst, man. You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and, yeah, you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three wide was going a hurt a lane; looked like Kyle was getting pushed ahead, and then Ricky started getting pushed ahead.

“I knew if I went to the bottom, my car didn’t handle good enough. I already got pushed off the bottom once, and I thought, ‘If I go down there, I’m probably going to get wrecked, and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.’ Then you don’t expect them to wreck either. You think you’re racing to the checkered flag, and you put yourself in the best position to try to win at the start-finish line, and just caution came out. You wish you could race to the end. Obviously, you can’t when they wreck that much. Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second. Still proud of the team, still proud of the effort coming off the championship last year and bringing this Mustang back toward the front and getting a Ford close to the front. Wish it was in victory lane, though.”

Christopher Bell — Finished third: “If you would have told me prerace that I was going to run third, I would have jumped up and down and been smiling ear-to-ear. I’m very happy. I’m very, very thankful that I could get this Toyota Camry a good solid finish but just so close to a crown jewel. I feel like if it would have stayed green, I would have been on offense, but who knows. I’m very proud and thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing. I’m happy for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.). That’s really cool. I’m very happy for him. … I hate superspeedway racing. It has been my Achilles heel for a number of years now, so just running third at the Daytona 500 is a really big deal, and I’m sure tomorrow I will be really happy – but right now, I’m just bummed because I feel like we were in position there, but overall – I’m really happy for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.). He’s won multiple speedway races and been very close at others. Happy for him and can’t wait to go to Auto Club.”

Chris Buescher — Finished fourth: “Yeah, at the end of the day, yeah. We were up front a lot of the day between both of our cars and there is a ton to be proud of. I can’t thank everyone back at RFK enough. The Mustang was quick, and I love that. Just got a little behind there in the first overtime and survived the next one. Somehow we made it through all of that and picked up all kinds of spots. Ultimately even getting back to fourth, it should feel good, but I feel like we had more in us today and just weren’t able to hoist that trophy up.”

Alex Bowman — Finished fifth: “It’s the Daytona 500, and we know how to crash some stuff.  It was just super aggressive and a lot of pushing. You know you have to do it and sometimes they go wrong and crashes happen.  Just proud of my team and glad we were able to make it out clean. Just starting the year off strong on the right foot. Not only here but at the Coliseum as well. I enjoy California. It’s been hit or miss for me, but looking forward to getting back there.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished seventh: “It was a little bit crazy, but I told the team they did a hell of a job. We lacked track position most of the day, and when it mattered the most, we had it. We just spun out there, and I was just struggling with loose balance when people would get to the rear bumper for some reason. That one, (Austin Cindric) came very close to me, very tight and the car behind me came very close as well and got me loose. We recovered and we are getting better at this kind of racing and we are going to get one of these one day.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished eighth: “You know, unfortunately getting tore up in the second stage and I thought we did a good job fixing it and staying in it and got a couple of laps back and were able to get it driving decent enough to where we lined up in the top-15 and were able to miss some wrecks and finish okay. I am really proud of the effort to fix it and make it driveable and get a finish. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t race for a win.”

Riley Herbst — Finished 10th: “It was long and a lot of riding, not really racing. I was kind of biding my time and trying to get experience. To finish top-10 was really cool. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here in the Cup Series and really happy with the finish in our first 500.”

TRAVIS PASTRANA — Finish 11th: “Just to be in the hunt at the end. We weren’t in the hunt for the win but to be in the top 10 on that last restart, this exceeded all my expectations. Obviously, it’s disappointing now because you want to do the best you can. I was really trying not to crash and unfortunately, when things got tight in there, I wasn’t able to control it on the top with the push. I led a lap, but it was by mistake. They said, ‘Come in, no stay out.’ I’m like, ‘I’m already out.’ I led a lap at the Daytona 500 and finished top 20. The car is not a complete write off, so the kid’s college fund is intact. It was a win, and it was awesome.

“This exceeded all of my expectations as far as results. These are the best drivers in the world. I’m not a great rear-wheel driver, I’m not a great pavement driver. Restrictor plate racing is a little different. We had a great team with this 23XI Toyota team, and it was an honor to be on the track with these guys. It was amazing that we were able to put it in the top 20. I’m proud of everyone involved and so thankful to be here.”

“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week. I am mentally and physically completely drained. … This was one of the greatest if not the greatest weeks or couple of weeks of my life.”

KYLE LARSON — Finished 18th: “I’m OK. It was definitely a huge hit. It was my first time wearing that mouthpiece (that helps record the forces during a crash impact), so I’m curious to see what that reads, but it was definitely one of the bigger ones I’ve ever had. But thankfully, the car held up, I guess, and all my safety equipment was fine, and I’m fine. Just a bummer.

“Everybody in the top four to six has an opportunity to win there. I had such a run from (Christopher Bell). I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt like where I was going to get to (Stenhouse), I wanted to stay committed to him at least through (turns) 1 and 2 and down the backstretch and then have things work out. I definitely didn’t want to try and go for the lead as early as I did. I just had such a run. I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought if I got to him where I was going to get to him, it was going to choke us up or cause a crash, and then we weren’t going to win. I wish I could play that over again, but (I’m) happy that Ricky won. That’s all I could think about it after I crashed was waiting to get out to hear that he won. Super happy for his team and Chevrolet but wish I could have at least finished it.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 19th: “I just tried to keep it straight as much as I can and wait for when its going to happen and eventually it does, and it did again today. So, I tried, and I don’t know what else to do.  Come up short. Led Lap 200 and wish it was still 1998 rules. Yeah, definitely excited for the start of the season and getting to the real racetracks.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 24th: “I thought we had a decent run until the end. We put ourselves in position in the top 10 and then made a couple of mistakes and got caught up in the big wreck at the end with the last caution. Thankful for the opportunity. We’re going to continue to work hard and grow as a team. Really proud of (crew chief) Luke Lambert and the boys for the adversity we had. Never quit. We’re not going to quit. Just very thankful.”

Harrison Burton — Finished 26th: “I am just disappointed. We were leading with 18 to go and I feel like we had a shot. It just didn’t go our way. The outside just didn’t really get rolling and we didn’t get organized very well and by the time we did it was just a little too late. I feel like when the 22 pulled up in front of me I tried to slow down to engage him and I got hit by the 8 really hard and send the 22 three-wide and we lost momentum again. I don’t know why I got out of shape off of four but I about wrecked off of four. Then you’re buried in the back trying to make moves to get back up and when they wreck you are just right in the way. It is frustrating. I felt like we executed our race well. Just sucks not to win for sure.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON — Finished 31st: “All in all, just a great day. I hate that we didn’t get to the finish line, but we got a lot closer than I thought. If I would have taken a bet before the race started, I would have thought some issues earlier than that, but we had a great day. The Carvana car was awesome. Very, very proud of this race team. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the finish line.”

Justin Haley — Finished 32nd: “We had a great run going there for a while. We were unfortunately just caught up in what was ultimately just one of those green-white-checkered deals that are inevitable at superspeedways. We struggled a little bit all weekend. This package is pretty tough to pass with, but it was fun to be up there battling in the top 10 there for a bit.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 33rd: “We had a strategy there, and it just didn’t play out. We weren’t as good as some of the Fords to be able to tandem and get hooked up. (Brad Keselowski) just drove through (William Byron), and that is just what he does. His car is just good enough to where he can just drive through who he needs to and push them out of the way, or wreck them. That is the desperation that they are in right now. I hate it because I was wanting to get Kyle Busch in victory lane here at Daytona. Looking back I should have been a little more selfish at that point. I wish we would have just tried to block both lanes, truthfully. It was one of those deals that is a hard position to be in. I also wish it had gone to the white flag in the position we were in.  Unfortunately not, and hopefully Kyle (Busch) can still make something happen from sixth. RCR as a whole, it was pretty cool to get to where we got there and be 1-2 at the Daytona 500 with two laps to go.  It sucks because you are so close to winning a second Daytona 500 and your teammate was really close to winning his first ever.  We will take it and move on and we did it with not the fastest cars truthfully. It was just execution and we didn’t finish off the last part.”

WILLIAM BYRON — Finished 34th: “I got into (Kyle Busch), and we just got off center somehow and I wrecked him. Once he got off center, I tried to back up but I had (Brad Keselowski) in the back of me trying to push as well. Yeah, unfortunate because we were trying to put ourselves in the right position and we were in a really good spot there with about two to go and running third before that caution.  It seemed like when they did the teammate restart it really checked up the bottom lane and I had made my bed of trying to take that lane to have momentum off of turn two. That was unfortunate.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 35th: “We were coming off that pit sequence and everybody was such different speeds and you could definitely tell the intensity was ratcheting up. Everybody was just making really aggressive blocks trying to position themselves for the end. I don’t know. We just all checked up into one and it was a bad wreck for Stewart-Haas because all four of us were stuck in that. I just hate it. It felt like we were in position. We talked about what our plan was going into it and felt like we were executing that, but we just needed a little luck at the end to go with it. We’ll move on to California and see if we can improve. Obviously, we need to improve. We finished 34th again, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 36th: ““Everybody was on green0flag cycles. People trying to block the rows are trying to cycle in and I just want to focus on the fact that we had such a fast Ford Mustang. This opportunity is exactly what I wanted, so it’s unfortunate because I felt like we were gonna put ourselves in position to give ourselves an opportunity to be in contention to win this race, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, we keep unloading fast Ford Mustangs like we did this weekend and we’ll have some fun.”

Erik Jones — Finished 37th: “It looked like (Tyler Reddick) got turned around, but I couldn’t see how it happened. Regardless, we spun out there on the bottom when I was trying to get around it, and then I got hit on the left side hard enough to take out the left rear and end our day. It is what it is. We were up there; we were racing and we were doing all we could. We were just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I wish we could have been a little ahead of him. Everybody was racing hard, but everybody was doing a good job of just keeping in line and doing what they needed to do. There were a couple of moments.. a couple of aggressive and bad pushes, but nothing that was too crazy. I don’t know what sprung that one off, but I thought everybody was doing a good job at that point. It started to get pretty aggressive up until that wreck and I was getting antsy about being up there and getting into something. We were kind of in a bad spot in the pack to get caught up in something. Obviously, it’s a superspeedway, so there’s not a ton you can take from this weekend. I thought our No. 43 Guns N’ Roses Chevy was good, it just needed some more speed.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 38th: “It looked like some guys got tangled up, upfront. Those of us in the back were just scattering to kind of miss it. It looked like (Kyle Larson) and (Erik Jones) kind of went to the apron. By the time we got slowed up, they were coming back across the track and I was the lucky winner to get there first. It’s a bummer. Long ways to go. Hate to end the day, but it is what it is.”

TYLER REDDICK — Finished 39th: “I really felt like we could push really well and make progress through the pack. I just had been not really in the lead much at all today. That was the first time I was getting any pushes in the lead. The car seemed a little unstable down the back straightaway. Kevin was trying to push me, and I just lost it. If I’d have known that earlier in the day, I probably would have been more careful about that. But that was really the first experience I had with that all day long. I was kind of caught off guard by what happened in the corner there, unfortunately. That was the first time I’d been put in that situation, got loose, and unfortunately took out some other good cars.”

Results of the 65th Daytona 500, NASCAR Cup points standings


The results of the 65th Daytona 500 came down to the last lap yet again as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. opened the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season with his first victory in the Great American Race.

In his No. 47 Chevrolet, Stenhouse, 35, barely nipped Joey Logano‘s No. 22 Ford as the caution flag flew for a multicar crash on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway. Christopher Bell finished third, followed by Chris Buescher and pole-sitter Alex Bowman.

It was the third career victory in NASCAR’s premier series for Stenhouse, whose last victory came at Daytona in July 2017.

In his 12th Daytona 500 start, the Olive Branch, Mississippi, native became the 42nd driver to win the crown jewel of stock-car racing. Stenhouse’s previous best finish was seventh (2014) in the season opener.

Stenhouse, who rebounded from a speeding penalty on Lap 179, led only the final nine laps to deliver the second career victory in Cup to JTG Daugherty Racing. It’s the team’s first win in 302 starts since AJ Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen International in August 2014.

BOX SCORE: Click here for full results from the 65th Daytona 500 l Race rundown

PENALTY REPORTClick here for infractions during the race

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: Notable quotes from the Daytona 500 field

Allmendinger, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain and Riley Herbst rounded out the top 10.

The race went a record 12 laps (30 miles) beyond the scheduled 500-mile distance when multiple cautions sent the race to overtime and two green-white-checkered finishes.

There were 52 lead changes among 21 drivers. Brad Keselowski led a race-high 42 laps but finished outside the top 20 after being involved in the final wreck.

The yellow flag flew eight times, including four times in the final 30 laps.


By virtue of winning the Daytona 500, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has earned a provisional berth in the 2023 Cup Series playoffs.

With his runner-up finish, Joey Logano took the lead in the championship standings by two points over Chris Buescher and four points over Stenhouse.

Click here for driver points standings l Click here for owner points standings

Richard Petty bothered by downsizing of role at team since Jimmie Johnson’s arrival


Richard Petty concedes he’s been miffed at the downsizing of his role at the Cup team that bore his name before Jimmie Johnson became a minority owner last year.

Petty GMS Racing was renamed Legacy Motor Club for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and “The King” has no ownership stake in the organization that includes the No. 43 he made famous. He sold his shares to Maury Gallagher in a deal before last season.

The seven-time Cup series champion remains in a “chief ambassador” role with Legacy Motor Club, but Petty, 85, explained (during a media availability Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway) that Johnson and his management team are in charge of all major decisions.

“Yes, it does,” Petty replied with a laugh when asked if that bothered him. “Because I’ve done things my way, which hasn’t been too good lately, but as time progresses, things change in the world. Then it probably was time for a change.

“Jimmie’s looking not necessarily at what’s going to happen this year, but he’s trying to lay a foundation for four or five years where he’s still young enough that he’s going to be around for a long, long time.”

In an interview Saturday afternoon with Dan Gelston of the Associated Press, Johnson said he was “disappointed to hear and read through the press that his feelings were bruised because he’s not expressed them to me, for starters. But honestly, there are a lot of moving pieces to this. There are business decisions that are taking place between Mr. Gallagher and the Petty family before I ever arrived. Those are details that are just not my place to say.

“But a lot of what Richard is speaking to is based on business decisions that he and his family have made, and they aren’t relative to my involvement.”

The Petty name has been a part of NASCAR’s premier series virtually since its 1949 inception until this year. Petty Enterprises was founded by Richard’s father, Lee, and it morphed into Richard Petty Motorsports (in 2009) and then Petty GMS in a merger with GMS Racing last year.

But Petty said the team structure has been “kind of confusing from my standpoint” since Petty GMS was restructured into Legacy Motor Club.

“Wherever we went, I had my own little crowd that pretty much ran the show,” Petty said. “When we got with GMS, we had to blend with them. When Jimmie comes in, his crowd doesn’t take over the racing part, they take over the front office with sponsorships, appearances, and all that stuff. Jimmie’s crowd is controlling that.

“That’s something I’ve never had to put up with, I guess. I still do my own thing. But then I do a lot for our new team.”

Petty said his new role has “been strange to me” in part because he and Johnson agree on the team’s direction only “about 50 percent” of the time — and “The King” still is adjusting to no longer having the final say.

“Most of the time, I run the majority of the show,” Petty said. “Jimmie brought all his people in, and his way of running things (and) my way of running things, are probably a little bit different, OK?”

Johnson, 47, returned to NASCAR as a part-time driver and team owner after racing in the NTT IndyCar Series the past two seasons.

After locking in a spot via qualifying Wednesday, his start in Sunday’s Daytona 500 will be Johnson’s first NASCAR race since the 2020 Cup season finale in Phoenix. He is planning more Cup starts this season (but only the Chicago street race has been confirmed beyond Daytona).

“I think Jimmie’s really looking to the future,” Petty said. “Basically, he’ll wind up running the show in four to five years. He’ll probably be the majority owner of our operation in four to five years. I know that they’re looking at things completely differently.

“Jimmie’s very observant. Jimmie controls everything, basically. You’re making postcards and stuff, he has to approve it. He approves everything. He’s a pretty busy man right now.”

Legacy Motor Club fields Chevrolets in full-season rides for Erik Jones and rookie Noah Gragson. Petty said he understood why the team rebranded.

“That was one of the operations that when Jimmie come in, it was going to be hard to be ‘Petty Johnson GMS,’ ” Petty said. “Here again, Jimmie’s thinking further ahead with this group, and he come up with a new name.

“So we got him with seven championships, me with seven championships, (Hall of Fame crew chief) Dale Inman with eight championships. So a pretty legendary operation from the top up or the top down. That’s the reason they wanted a new team. They wanted to do stuff a little bit different, and that’s the reason they come up with (the name).”

Johnson was busy with media obligations after final Daytona 500 practice Saturday and said he had yet to talk with “The King.” But Johnson planned to discuss Petty’s displeasure in a future conversation between two of the three seven-time champions in NASCAR history (along with the late Dale Earnhardt).

“He’s always been so kind and wonderful to me,” Johnson said. “He’s the last person I fist-pumped before I rolled off pit lane and won my seventh championship.”

Petty and Johnson are among nine past NASCAR champions and Daytona 500 winners who will serve as grand marshals for Sunday’s race.